Published: 27 October 2022
Harnessing the support of those who have experienced the care system and homelessness is key to making the changes needed to prevent care leavers falling off the ‘care cliff’ and becoming homeless in the future, identifies a report from Public Health Wales.
Care experienced individuals are a vulnerable group who have to deal with significant and multiple challenges in their lives. This also puts them in in the best position to offer support and advice to services to ensure they meet the needs of those about to leave care.
Transitioning from care is a key period in a young person’s life and is often associated with poor outcomes in areas such as health, education, housing and employment, with around a quarter of young homeless people having had care experience.
Approximately 650 children leave their care placement in Wales each year, a figure that has increased by approximately 15 per cent since 2011. While the majority move to suitable accommodation, over one in 20 move to unsuitable accommodation. When followed up on their nineteenth birthday, almost two in every five of those with care experience were not engaged in either education, employment or training and nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of them had obtained no qualifications.
Manon Roberts, Senior Policy Officer for the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre at Public Health Wales, said: “Researchers have pointed specifically to the need to consult homeless people directly about their experiences in order to develop effective health messages and interventions.
“Ensuring that young people transitioning from care to adulthood are given the space to make their own choices, including empowering them to shape the kind of support they need and develop goals has also been shown to be important.
“Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the UK, one of the legacies with which we are left is the ability to work across organisational boundaries, finding agile solutions to difficult problems such as homelessness, with the needs of the individual as the central driving force for action. If this can be retained and continually built upon moving forwards, this would be advantageous for care experienced individuals. There is a desire amongst those who have experienced the care system to make the experience better for those coming behind them and this untapped resource should be utilised to best advantage. It is also important for organisations that provide an input to care experienced individuals to reflect on how to ensure care experienced individuals are placed at the heart of decision making.”
As well as empowering care experienced individuals, other key priorities for reducing homelessness in this group included:
Bill Rowlands from End Youth Homelessness Cymru, said:
“Research has long shown that care experienced young people have a higher propensity to experiencing homelessness than their non-looked after peers. Indeed, our own research in 2020 highlighted this propensity in a Welsh context, and provided a number of recommendations for Welsh Government and Local Authorities. We welcomed the opportunity to be involved in this research with Public Health Wales, as it provided a great platform for the young people that we work with to share their experiences, in the hope that it better improves the experiences of those in the care system in the future. It’s crucial that these are the voices we listen to as we look to create a system that works for those leaving the care system and transitioning to living independently”.
Provided across nine local authorities in South Wales, these services are aligned with statutory youth homelessness prevention services and can act as a preventative measure to avoid homelessness occurring.